I AM ORIGINALLY FROM SRI LANKA AND EMIGRATED with my family to California, USA in January 1990. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba came into my life in early 1998. After experiencing the love of Baba, my savior, I am now sharing my story.
I am a Buddhist by birth. Buddhism does not talk of God! When I was 47 years old, I was partially paralyzed with a serious illness. I could not walk, talk, or keep my eye lids open. I was very depressed and frustrated as I had been a busy and active person all my life. The doctors diagnosed my condition as myasthenia gravis. The only possible treatment for this disease was to remove the thymus gland, which would give some relief, but the surgery had some potential risks. My family and friends were praying for me and that is the time that God almighty came into my life.
Buddha saved many sick people and for me it was Swami who came to my rescue just as Buddha did, centuries ago. After going through many obstacles, by His grace the date for my surgery was scheduled. After taking X-rays and CAT scans, the doctors located the thymus gland next to my heart and they decided to perform the surgery, called “thymectomy,” where my ribcage had to be opened, similar to a by-pass heart surgery. I was very weak and due to the critical condition my family was informed that I may not recover after surgery. Surgery was completed but the post-surgery pain was unbearable.
I cried out for help from God. By His amazing grace, Swami gave me a clear vision. He appeared in His physical form at my bedside in the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) Hospital, and blessed me. When I look back at my life, I can’t imagine how God forgave my past sins and showered His unconditional love on me. The first lesson Swami taught me while in the hospital was to pray for all beings as millions were suffering, much more than me. Praying for myself was selfish. He taught me to pray for all with unconditional love and comforted me with words “Hold My hand and walk with Me while you are paying off your past karma."
As a Buddhist, I knew that I was reaping the fruits of my own past karma. It is hard to accept that I hurt others so badly in my past lives to undergo such unbearable suffering. But by His grace and guidance, I started praying for all beings and became a vegetarian. I started putting into practice Swami’s teaching, “Love All – Serve All.” By His infinite grace, I even travelled to Prasanthi Nilayam with the aid of a wheelchair and after two weeks of blissful visit, I was well enough to return to California walking, without the use of a wheelchair.
However, unfortunately, I was not cured completely, and, on several occasions, I had to be admitted to intensive care unit because of paralysis, affecting the respiratory muscles. Also, on several occasions, I was placed on life-support with a breathing machine (ventilator) and had to be fed by a nasogastric tube.
Swami knew that I had to endure my illness for many more years, and so He started to guide and transform me little by little – as the saying goes, “Man’s adversity is God’s opportunity.” Then, I started praying for others and practiced vipassana meditation. Little by little, my mind calmed down, and in the depth of silence, Swami started talking to me and guided me to live righteously. He showed me that we all belong to Him, He is everywhere and everything, and He is the supreme consciousness. Even though my physical body was very frail and weak, my mind became stronger and stronger, and I started to learn to accept and live with the pain. I started to follow His commands and became detached from the material world. This made me feel free and happy.
The real life-threatening challenge came in July 2014 when I developed internal hemorrhage in the stomach and inside my intestines, which could not be controlled. I was put on a life-support measure as I was literally bleeding to death. All my vital signs were critical and later I learned that the attending doctors gave up all hope and advised the family to brace for the worst. The decision was made to remove my life-support system since there were no vital signs. I later learned also that many Sai devotees were visiting me at the hospital. Some of them were doctors and they reluctantly agreed with the decision to remove my life-support system. My family was devastated as they were not prepared for this sudden turn of events. The only thing that could be done at that moment was to chant the Gayatri Mantra, which few of them did around me. But who knew that Swami’s miracle was about to unfold? After they turned off my life-support, my vital signs improved miraculously! While in coma, I remembered following a bright blue light far away in the sky. The next thing I recollected was that Swami came to me and guided me back into my frail body. When I woke up from the coma, four days later, I could vividly see Him standing at the foot of my hospital bed. With a big smile, He was blessing me with upraised hands (abhaya-hasta) and once again, He exhorted me to continue to unconditionally love and serve all beings.
Our beloved Swami said that He has come to take us home and give us moksha (Self-realization). Suffering makes a person understand that we are born in this world to experience life, to go within, inquire, and to find our way back to God. These challenges in my life have made me develop equanimity, try to better serve others, and develop faith in Swami as my guardian, guide, and true savior.
My beloved Swami, almighty Lord, You are my Divine mother, father, teacher, and God. I have no words to thank You for transforming me. By Your grace, I am now peaceful, accepting every moment of my life as a blessing from You. I love You!
May all the worlds be happy!
Jai Sai Ram.
Ms. Semali Balasuriya
God is your sole refuge wherever you may be, in a forest, in the sky, in a city, in a village, on the top of a mountain, or in the middle of the deep sea.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba, July 10, 1996
About the Author:
Semali Balasuriya lives in California, USA and hails from Sri Lanka. She was a schoolteacher, specializing in Montessori teaching. After moving to the USA, Semali graduated from the Early Childhood Development Program at University of California, Los Angeles and taught at the Oneonta Montessori school, California.
First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 1, Iss. 3